Today, Taylor and
Andy Spencer are discussing The Mighty Thor 3, originally released January 13th, 2016.
Taylor: I recently learned that I have a reputation for being a strict teacher at my school. This revelation came as a bit of a surprise to me since I feel like I’m not any more strict than my fellow teachers. I’m not bothered by having this reputation but I do find it interesting that I had no idea this is how I was viewed by my students. But I guess that’s ultimately the thing about a person’s reputation; no matter how hard you work to craft it or understand it, you ultimately have no control over what it is. For most of us this isn’t a huge issue, we move on with our lives no matter how others view us. If you’re Loki, however, and the fate of the ten realms rests on your actions and how others see you, it’s a completely different story.
Loki is seemingly set to do battle against Thor as the war in Alfheim rages. But nothing is ever as it seems with Loki and instead of fighting he just wants to talk. Thor knows that simply talking to Loki can be dangerous and smashes off his head, which leads Loki to summon copies of himself from all ages to help him make his point. Naturally, Thor isn’t pleased by this and after defeating Lady-Loki, she seemingly sacrifices herself to prevent all of Alfheim from being destroyed by Roxxon made bombs.
Even though this series is called The Mighty Thor, this third issue clearly belongs to Loki. Thor, meanwhile, acts the foil to Loki and as the latter astutely points out, her way of dealing with him is almost exactly the same as the Odinson’s. However, you can’t blame Jane for this. As she reminds us, last time she met Loki (as a human) he nearly killed her. Given that and Loki’s reputation as a trickster, it’s hard to argue with her approach of walloping Loki first and talking later.
Of course the weird thing about this whole series of events is that Loki, no matter how much he gets beaten, refuses to retaliate against Thor. His claim of wanting just to talk to Thor appears to be genuine — or at least as genuine as you can get with him. Loki even calls on some past incarnations of himself to vouch for him.
This scene is rendered wonderfully in the above panel by the always stunning Russell Dauterman. Here, he faithfully captures the likenesses of all the previous incarnations of Loki but does so in a way that maintains his own style. Most of these character designs were first generated by other artists, but Dauterman makes them his own with his trademark detail, with beautiful coloring by Matthew Wilson. Additionally, Dauterman gives us a masterclass in figure drawing here. All of the Lokis, whether they be children, monsters, old, or cats, stand with the exact same posture. Everyone pictured here has their hip cocked and their head tilted slightly to the right. It all suggests that while they may be different, all of these Lokis are essentially still part of one thing, one god.
But here’s where the issue gets really interesting. All of these Lokis seem to have their own mind and their own volition. While the lead Loki continues to tell Thor that he wishes to talk, the other Loki’s get impatient. Most notably, female Loki engages in battle with Thor because she doesn’t like the idea of simply talking to the enemy. Soon the other Lokis begin to voice their displeasure with standing on the sidelines and then a fight breaks out.
What I find intriguing about this development is what it means about Loki as a character. One could view this as Loki having spawned different versions of himself, all of whom have their own mind and volition. However, that doesn’t give Jason Aaron enough credit as a writer. I think he’s encouraging us to dig deeper than just viewing what’s on the page. To me, it seems like we’re seeing Loki undergo an internal struggle, externally. While we humans may simply struggle to decide what is the right thing to do in our mind, Loki actually has his struggle play itself out in a physical battle. Part of him apparently does want to try and walk the straight and true path. However, there’s another part of him that still just wants to be evil and deceitful. The fact that all of the Loki’s spawn from the same central Loki and that they all initially appear with the same stance only lend credence to the idea that this Loki battle is actually a character vs. self conflict.
This makes it hard to read Loki right now. His reputation would have us (and Thor) believe that all of these smoke and mirrors are simply a distraction to keep Thor busy until the Roxxon bombs arrive. What do you think, Spencer? Is Loki actually trying to turn over a new leaf? And of all the different Lokis, which is your favorite? Mine by far has to be Cat-Head-Loki which hails from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. What about you?
Spencer: Hate to steal your answer, Taylor, but I geeked out pretty hard when I saw Cat-Head-Loki myself, if only because it means Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman are reading The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and I think that’s pretty cool.
As for Loki’s motivation, I’ll admit that I’m a bit flummoxed right now. If indeed Loki wanted both himself and Thor to die, then we still don’t know why. Is he tired of his role, or of the constant conflict between his nature and his desires that the multi-Loki battle so aptly illustrates? Or perhaps he’s still being swallowed by the overwhelming guilt of having killed his younger self?
It’s notable that Kid Loki reminds us of that plot point right before Frost-baby Loki accuses present-day Loki of being too “weak and frightened” to go after what he really wants. That certainly sounds like an excuse some people use to explain why they haven’t gone though with killing themselves (although, obviously, that’s a good thing in that situation), and the moment when both the death of Kid Loki and present-day Loki’s supposed fear are brought up is when he finally loses his temper and lashes out. That’s suspicious.
But is Aaron digging that deep into Loki’s character and recent history here? How hard should I be looking at Loki’s evolution at the end of Al Ewing’s Loki: Agent of Asgard when I try to parse out his motives? Is Loki’s claim that he wants to die with Thor even true, or just another lie (as his speech about the work he and Thor still have left to do seems to imply)? It’s a new universe, there’s been a time skip, and this is Aaron’s first stab at writing Loki in a long while; with so much context unclear, it’s hard to get my bearings with just what, exactly, is going on here. I understand that’s likely the point — there should always be doubt when it comes to Loki’s motives — but as much fun as I had with this plot, it’s still maybe just a bit too obtuse for its own good.
Where the multiple Loki concept shines is when it focuses less on the question of Loki’s motivations and allegiances and more on what his constantly changing persona means for everyone around him — including the readers. Loki’s argument with “himself” just oozes meta.
This could easily be an argument between any of Loki’s fans or creators. Is he a better character as the ruthless villain, or as a charming anti-hero? Is his “character growth” something that can stick, or will he inevitably become a straight-up bad guy again because that’s just how comics work? Loki’s greatest enemy has essentially always been his pre-ordained role as a villain — be it ordained by in-universe mythology or Marvel editorial — and that may be the one battle he can never win. I mean, Kieron Gillen even infamously ended his Journey Into Mystery run by killing off his reformed take on Kid Loki because he knew the reformation would eventually be undone, and if it had to end, he wanted to end it on his terms.
That idea of inevitability, of this Loki not being the real Loki, also applies to Thor herself.
By now, Aaron and Dauterman have proven that Jane is worthy of the hammer, but no matter how true that is, it’s hard to overlook the fact that at some point, the Odinson will once again reclaim Mjolnir and become Thor once more — last night’s announcement that Steve Rogers will be returning as Captain America only drives that point home more clearly than ever. This idea establishes some parallels between Jane as Thor and the current incarnation of Loki, and that could be pretty important if they’re going to work together in the future in any capacity.
Taylor is right that this issue is light on Thor herself, but Aaron and Dauterman still find some room to peek into Jane’s head.
If anything, the absence of Jane’s monologue throughout most of the issue makes this moment more powerful. This is the first Jane’s actively mentioned her cancer throughout the entire issue, but this shows that it’s something that’s always on her mind. Becoming Thor is only so much of an escape, and even a war between realms is only a momentary distraction from her problems. That makes Jane’s heroism — that she can do so much and so constantly think of others even with so much already on her plate — all the more inspirational.
Well, I’m far past the amount of images I should be including in this article, but there’s one more moment I want to discuss before we wrap up.
We’ve talked about this before, but I absolutely adore the way Melekith’s war mixes magic and mythology with modern technology. This is probably my favorite example in the series thus far — the sight of giant, monstrous bats carrying bombs is funny enough, but that bold, modern font spelling out “ROXXON” on each and every bomb is a beautiful punchline. This is more than just a fun gag, though — mixing magic and technology seems to be an overriding theme of The Mighty Thor, and for the first time, I’ve noticed how that even ties into our title character. The Odinson always adored Midgard, but no matter how fiercely he fought to protect our world, he was never truly of it. Jane Foster is — as Thor, she’s a product of both Asgard and Midgard in a way no other being has been before. That makes her, by far, the most qualified hero to handle this particular conflict. I can’t wait to see how Thor deals with it.
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